One of Pope Francis’ messages for clergy and religious in South America is that they must shun any desire to be better than others or see themselves as somehow set apart and on a pedestal.
The Pope said this today in his homily at vespers with clergy and religious in Paraguay.
“[Christ] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. A person called by God does not show off; he or she does not seek recognition or applause; he or she does not claim to be better than others, standing apart as if on a pedestal,” the Pontiff said.
It echoed the message he has given during each of the two previous meetings he’s had with clergy and religious during his three-nation South America trip.
In Bolivia, speaking off-the-cuff to share an anecdote from 1975, the Pope recounted how he had made a promise to God to make a pilgrimage to the Lord of the Miracle if there were 40 Jesuit novices that year. There were 41, the Pope said, and so he had gone to the shrine and after concelebrating Mass, leaving with another priest, a poor woman came with some statues of saints that she wanted blessed. The priest didn’t fulfill her request, with the explanation that since she’d been present at Mass, the blessing had already been given.
The Holy Father thus lamented those who “always put up walls to the people of God, separating them. They hear but don’t listen. They expound a sermon. They see but they don’t really look. The need to differentiate themselves has blocked the heart. The need, conscious or unconscious, of saying, ‘I am not like him. I am not like them,’ has separated them not only from the cries of their people, from their tears, but especially from their motives for joy. Laugh with those who laugh, cry with those who cry. Herein is part of the mystery of the priestly heart and the consecrated heart.”
Similarly, in Ecuador, he said it is sad when one sees a priest or consecrated person who no longer wants to speak their home dialect, “one of those noble ancient languages that the people of Ecuador have. It is very sad when you forget the language. It is very sad when you do not want to speak it. That means that you forget where you were taken from. Do not forget that. Ask for that grace,” he said.
He referenced this when speaking to the Bolivians: “Don’t deny your roots, don’t deny this culture you learned from your people because now you have a ‘more sophisticated,’ ‘more important’ culture. There are priests who are embarrassed to speak their native language, and so they forget their Quechua, their Aymara, their Guaraní. ‘Because no, no. Now I speak with sophistication.”
Another message the Pope had today in Paraguay was that the Church must live in harmony.
“How good it is for all of us to pray Vespers together!,” he said. “How can we not dream of of a Church which reflects and echoes the harmony of voices and song in her daily life!”
Apostolic work is “carried out in communion,” the Holy Father reminded, and it is communion that leads to fruitfulness.
“I want to encourage all of you, priests, men and women religious, laity and seminarians, and bishops to be committed to this ecclesial collaboration, especially with regard to diocesan pastoral plans and the continental mission, and to work together with complete availability in the service of the common good. If our divisions lead to barrenness (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 98-101), then there is no doubt that communion and harmony lead to fruitfulness, because they are deeply attuned to the Holy Spirit,” the Pope stated.
On Sunday, the Holy Father concludes his apostolic visit. He will celebrate Mass in the morning, lunch with the nation’s bishops and have a meeting with youth in the evening. He is scheduled to depart for Rome at 7 p.m..
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